PREDICTORS, MECHANISMS, AND DIVERSITY IN HUMAN-ANIMAL INTERACTION RESEARCH
There has been substantial growth in recent decades in the variety and popularity of roles for dogs assisting humans in professional therapeutic partnerships. Simultaneously, increasingly rigorous research has repeatedly demonstrated the effects of professional human-canine partnerships in remedying important issues of public health among several at-risk populations. Yet, despite these areas of growth, mechanisms of action and predictors of efficacy in the field of human-animal interaction (HAI) remain poorly understood, and the role of human diversity has been rarely discussed. Thus, the present dissertation examines potential mechanisms and diverse predictors in two distinct samples of professional human-canine partnerships, while building the impetus to explore diversity in the HAI field as a whole. For the first three studies (Chapters 2-4), the selected samples of professional human-canine partnerships include military veterans working with psychiatric service dogs to mediate their symptoms of PTSD and healthcare professionals in pediatric hospitals working with facility dogs to benefit their patients. Following the introduction in Chapter 1, the objective of Chapters 2-3 was to examine primary human outcomes in the selected professional canine partnerships. In a crosssectional study of N=198 military veterans with PTSD, Chapter 2 compared PTSD symptom severity between n=112 veterans with service dogs and n=86 veterans on the waitlist to receive service dogs in the future. Next, in a cross-sectional study of N=130 healthcare professionals in pediatric hospitals, Chapter 3 compared job-related well-being and mental health of n=65 professionals working with facility dogs to n=65 working without. Findings suggested benefits to the mental health and well-being of both military veterans with PTSD and pediatric healthcare professionals, which were significantly associated with their professional canine partnerships. Subsequently, the objective of Chapter 4 was to explore how variances within a specific professional canine partnership may suggest predictors and potential mechanisms for the observed human outcomes. Thus, in a longitudinal study of N=82 veterans with PTSD and their service dogs, Chapter 4 explored associations of veterans’ outcomes with veteran-service dog demographics and interactions. Results suggested components of the human-canine partnership which might explain observed human outcomes, including social connections, a calming influence, and strong humananimal bonds.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Comparative Pathobiology
- West Lafayette